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Philosophy of education theories focus upon promoting particular understandings of the nature and goals of the educational system. They are a direct application of the questions asked within general philosophy about subjects such as metaphysics and epistemology. Many different philosophies of education exist. They include realism, scholasticism, pragmaticism, postmodernism, critical theory and idealism.
Many of these theories began as more general philosophical theories that were then applied to the context of education. For example, Plato contributed to the general development of the philosophy of idealism. The application of idealism to the realm of education resulted in a point of view that emphasizes education as a mechanism for achieving the perfect self and the development of a universal morality.
Philosophy of education theories exert a strong influence upon the professional practice of education. First, they arise within the context of training educational professionals. Teachers often develop their own philosophies of education after studying the works of major contemporary theorists such as John Dewey and Paulo Freire. The personal philosophy of education held by a teacher will impact that teacher's interactions with students and classroom behavior. In addition, philosophy of education theories also influence public policy. The provision of free public school education and the availabilities of government-funded school loans for college reflect elements of progressivism and social reconstructivism.
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